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Report: Trump Meets with Kim Jong Un's Aide; Blagojevich's Brother Also on Possible Commutation List; Roger Stone Says Trump's Pardons Clear Message to Those Ensnared in Mueller Investigation; MSNBC Host Apologizes for Offensive Blog Post. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 1, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on a Friday. Let's get to it, beginning with this extraordinary meeting, North Korea's former spy chief, the one suspected of masterminding that Sony hack is inside the White House. That is the window into the oval where they still are meeting.

Never mind the fact that Kim Yong Chol shouldn't be anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or even inside the United States for that matter considering he is on a sanctions list that bars him from coming in, but in an attempt to revive this on again/off again summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, Chol is hand delivering this letter to the president on behalf of the North Korean dictator. After his own meeting with Chol, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was pretty positive about the progress.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is going to be a process that will take days and weeks to work our way through. There will be tough moments, there will be difficult times. I've had some difficult conversations with them as well. They've given it right back to me, too. We're decades into this challenge.


BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny is there at the White House, our senior White House correspondent, CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd is there in Washington. Jeff Zeleny, we can't see much by trying to peer through the window but they're still in the meeting. Are you keeping track?

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We certainly are keeping track. They're going on about 45 minutes or so that he's been in the oval office or in the White House. We believe he is still in the oval office. The picture that you can see there, Brooke, is being shot via the rose garden, where the president often stands for events and other matters. We're on the other side of the White House here but our cameras are keeping an eye on the oval office.

You cannot see much looking in there. We do know that the president was meeting with this top North Korean official, who brought that letter to him from Kim Jong Un. We're told by officials that at least the general contents of the letter were generally positive towards setting up that Singapore summit. The timing of that is still in question, but there is one person here, Brooke, who wants that to happen on the 12th of June. That is the president. It's one of the reasons all the rules essentially were thrown out the window to have this personal envoy of Kim Jong Un come here to Washington after meeting with Mike Pompeo earlier this week in New York City.

So, we do expect to hear from the president at some point this afternoon. We do not know if we'll get final word on if that summit is on or off, but certainly a moment of high anticipation here, Brooke. Not since almost 20 years ago, 1998, Bill Clinton had another top North Korean official who worked for Kim Jong Un's father into the oval office as well. He hand delivered a letter. But Bill Clinton of course sent his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, to North Korea at the time to Pyongyang. This was not about a president to lead her summit. That's what we're talking about here. It's still pins and needles inside the White House to see what is exactly being brokered. Of course, more than just having the meetings, the conditions and substantial of what North Korea is willing to do, Brooke, is still an open question.

BALDWIN: But 45 minutes, Samantha, 45 minute and, yes, some of that is the translation time between Korean and English. Do you think that is a positive indication that signs could be pointing to yes, that this thing could be a go?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: On a basic level I think this is a staffing breakdown on behalf of the White House. Purely because Kim Yong Chol is a pro. He knows his stuff. We also know that president Trump doesn't do a great job of sticking to his script and sticking to his talking points. So, every minute that passes when president Trump is in the room with Kim Yong Chol, to me there's added risk that the president goes off of his talking point, tries to nuclear ad lib, if you will, and that's a risk. Have to remember that presidential time is often used as a carrot.

[14:05:00] So inviting Kim Yong Chol into the oval office, the president is inviting him into a room that's typically reserved for allies, our closest friends, and giving him such an inordinate chunk of time that sends a message to Kim Jong Un, I think, that North Korea, you're just as credible as all of our allies and we're going to be treating you exactly the same, which as we know is something that Kim Jong Un wants.

BALDWIN: Sam and Jeff, we're going to keep an eye on this meeting. If the president or secretary of state or anyone steps from front of the microphones one that wraps, we'll take that live. One day after granting some kind of clemency for one of celebrity criminals, one of president Trump's confidantes says yes, there is a message hyped the show of mercy. Roger Stone told "The Washington Post," and I quote, "it has to be a signal to Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III", indict people for crimes that don't pertain to Russian collusion and that's what will happen. The special counsel has awesome powers as you know but the president has even more awesome powers."

Just like Rod Blagojevich, Martha Stewart, Dinesh D'Souza the people Stone just name checked were all treated unfairly in the president's eyes and he has repeatedly voiced his disdain about it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was hit by somebody unfairly.

I think it's unfair to the presidency. And that's the way I feel.

I'm under routine audit and I think it's a very unfair thing.

General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly. Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated.

They are holding up every single nomination. What they're doing is unfair.


BALDWIN: Now in prison for his seventh year, disgraced Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich no longer has that thick brown hair but what he does have that's been eluding him for some time is hope. That is what his wife said President Trump gave him and his family when he announced he was considering commuting the rest of his 14-year sentence. Patti Blagojevich said she gets how the president feels about the whole Russia investigation. Her husband was prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald who is now an attorney for fired FBI director James Comey.

PATTI BLAGOJEVICH, WIFE OF JAILED ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: I see the same people that did this to my family, the same people that secretly taped us and twisted the facts and perverted the law that ended up my husband in jail, you know, these same people are trying to do the same thing that they did to my husband, just on a much larger scale.


BALDWIN: With me now is Rod Blagojevich's brother, Robert Blagojevich, a co-defendant in the ex-governor's first trial. He wrote "Fund-Raiser A, My Fight for Freedom and Justice." Robert, nice to have you on. Welcome, sir.


BALDWIN: First off, just what's your reaction to hearing that the president is considering commuting your brother's sentence?

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: I'm cautiously optimistic. If President Trump were gracious enough to commute rod's sentence and return him to his family, I think that would be a great justice and a reversal of what I think is a major injustice of 14 years in federal prison for a guy who did not take any money and for a guy who I know quite well who had no criminal intent during the time that we were wire tapped for 50 days. The government can make a federal case out of anything if they're wire tapping you and surveilling you and they will connect dots that can make a federal case, as in my situation. An innocent man who they ultimately let go after our first trial because they had nothing on me. They wanted me to flip, compose against my brother.

BALDWIN: But, Robert, your brother was ultimately convicted on more than a dozen felony corruption charges, there was all the evidence on tape. The "Chicago Tribune" wrote even if five of his 18 felony convictions were vacated, your brother would still be eligible for a sentence of 30 years to life.

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: And my response to that is and this is an astonishing thing to me, I'm a veteran, taxpayer, a guy who had belief in the criminal justice system before it happened to me and I was indicted, not understanding what we were up against. During the trial I can tell you 70 to 100 calls of my brother that were exculpatory never got played to the jury. I heard them all. My brother, if he was guilty of anything, the total body of work would show he was guilty of stupid talk. It's been an unfair portrayal. This is what happens when the government has an agenda and that's what they did against our family.

BALDWIN: OK. We won't re-litigate on TV, but I do want to ask you about, your letter to the White House, this was the end of April, asking them to pardon your brother. And so, you wrote, we've highlighted this one piece, "i know firsthand the righteousness of the D.O.J. and the FBI, even as they manipulate the law and operate corruptly." Robert, how can you say that about the justice department, about the Mueller investigation, even into the Michael Cohen investigation when you have zero clue as to what these investigators know. You're not on the inside.

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: Well, let me tell you, I do have a clue because I was in the arena. They targeted me. I know what I did and didn't do and I also know from the wiretaps that I heard about my brother that they excluded tapes that would have been exculpatory to him. I mean, it is just wrong. This is the United States of America and I'll tell you, to your listeners, our civil liberties are at stake here. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody, and, Brooke, it can even happen to you.

BALDWIN: Do you think all people prosecuted are victims?

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: No. If you look at the conviction rate, it is 96 percent. Nobody's that good. There's a reason for that.

BALDWIN: Trump's pardons, they're being seen -- or commutation in your brother's case, they're being seen to this message to the likes of Manafort and Flynn and Cohen, but also that he's personally selecting people that were selected of crimes that the president could actually be charged of. Someone gave him a list of celebrity convicted of all of his potential crimes, consciousness of guilt.

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: President Trump is a political disrupter, much like Uber and airbnb and Lyft. He is a political disrupter in Washington, D.C. if you look around the Washington zip codes, they are the most wealthiest in the country. There is a problem. There's no industry there. People live off the government. You've got bureaucrats entrenched specifically in the D.O.J. who have no accountability anywhere. So, my view is president Trump is trying to right wrongs and he's disrupting a system that's gotten so entrenched and entitled that it's about time in my opinion. If he could be good to my brother, I'd be very grateful for that.

BALDWIN: If he is good to your brother and his sentence is commuted and it's my understanding the two of you are estranged, do you think he'll go out and push the president's agenda like Dinesh D'Souza is? Is that part of the deal?

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH: There's no agenda of my brother that would appeal to president Trump. Having my brother united with his family would be a good thing.

BALDWIN: Robert Blagojevich, thank you.

Gloria Borger, what did you think of that, Robert Blagojevich calling the president a disrupter and he knows information firsthand. What did you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he would be speaking words that would be music to the president's here. In the quote you used from the left that expressed this antipathy toward law enforcement and the Department of Justice. We know that the president shares that and is even angry about it in his own case.

[15:15:00] And so anybody like Blagojevich's wife or his brother saying, you know, we know how you feel because we were treated so badly in the same way, we share your grievance, I think that's very helpful to their case with this president.

Here's a clip from Dinesh D'Souza, who the president pardoned just yesterday.


DINESH D'SOUZA, PARDONED BY TRUMP: The president said, Dinesh, you've been a great representative of freedom, he said I have to tell you, you've been screwed and using his power he was going to rectify it, sort of clear the slate and he said he just wanted me to be out there to be a bigger voice than ever defending the principles that I believe in.


BALDWIN: Trump told him to keep doing what he believes in. How do you interpret that?

BORGER: Well, look, I think it's a message that the president is sending loud and clear. It's a strategy to assure the loyalty of his people who are facing the criminal justice system, like Flynn or Manafort or Cohen, for example. I also think that it a way to say I'm in charge. There is finally something that I can do by decree where I don't have to go to congress for it, I don't even have to go to the department of justice for it.

I can actually do it myself with my signature and we know that this is a president who has openly expressed his frustration with the justice department, right, and here now he can just do this with his own signature so he's talking to Dinesh and he says, look, you have to go out there and you have to continue doing what you're doing, and the implication is I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing.

And don't forget, there's one other thing here, which is that this is a president who is also punching back and his enemies because in many of these cases, as you know, the people who represented or fought against the people who were in jail, like in Blagojevich's case, we know it was Patrick Fitzgerald. Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to his position by none other than James Comey and also Fitzgerald is now Comey's attorney. So, there are all these threads and you have this perfect storm and the president can hit his enemies and that includes the justice department, flex his muscle and ease his frustration a bit and just do something unilaterally. And he has not been able to do that on much of anything else. And I think he enjoys it.

BALDWIN: Easy to start connecting the dots on all these things. Gloria Borger, thank you very much.


BALDWIN: Staying in Washington here again, live pictures through the rose garden at the White House on through to the oval office where we're waiting for news on this meeting between Kim Yong Chol, this high-ranking North Korean, first time someone of his stature has come to the U.S. in 18 years. Meeting and handing a letter over to president Trump from the dictator back home. Stay tuned for that. Also, just in, cable TV host Joy Reid now apologizing after more offensive blog posts surfaced from her past. What she's saying to the McCain family and how she's explaining this.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


BALDWIN: MSNBC host Joy Reid is apologizing for yet another controversy surrounding inflammatory posts from her old blog. She just issued the statement and I will read just part of it. She writes, "while I publish my blogs starting in 2005. I wrote thousands of post in real time on the issues of the day. There are things I deeply regret and am embarrassed by. Things I would've said differently and issues where my position has changed. Today I am sincerely apologizing again."

She published a photoshopped image of Arizona Senator John McCain looking like the Virginia Tech shooter. The caption, mocked comments that McCain had made about taking down Osama Bin Laden. His daughter, Megan, calling her beyond disgusting and disgraceful. She has said she has the highest respect for Senator McCain that, she reached out to Megan McCain. Was that what forced her for breaking her silence?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That was one of the factors. Megan McCain criticizing Joy Reid for this. There is also the question of what else could come out. It seems like every day there's a new revelation of stuff on her old block, this idea that she had suggested people watch this 9/11 truther documentary that some found disturbing. So, there were a number of reasons why she felt she had to come out today and address this.

There could be even more posts that maybe are going to be published by various web sites in the future. This started more than six months ago. There had been anti-gay posts on her blog she discovered, she apologized. In April more posts came out and she had a different reaction. She said she was hacked. And that is really the issue at play here. Joy Reid is a time slot rival of mine, I hate to talk about rival and be critical in any way.

[14:25:00] But the issue here is credibility with regards to her claim about being hacked. She said she was hacked. Then she said she couldn't prove it in April, then she half backed away from being hacked. Now in this new flareup, these new blog posts this week, she's not saying she was hacked at all. So, I guess that idea's gone out the window.

BALDWIN: Wondering what that means for the hacking claim. And, Jeremy, to you, why not just if you're Joy, why not just come clean, full throat, mea culpa from the beginning, this is what I wrote, it was this time in my life, get it all out there then?

JEREMY BARR, MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": We still know what she wrote and what she didn't write. It seems like she wrote many posts that were offensive. What you want to credit for them and her note today she was contrite, but she didn't say I wrote those blog posts.

BALDWIN: Doesn't that make it worse for her?

BARR: People are saying, as Brian said, it's an issue of trust. She's a newscaster so you want to trust what she says. It's been a slow roll over the last few months and this is her longest statement to date. It doesn't mention hacking at all. She's doing what she did a few months ago, which is say I apologize for my past blog posts but once again not taking any responsibility.

STELTER: And MSNBC is standing by her.

BALDWIN: They put out a statement, let me read it. "Some of the things written by Joy on her old blog are obviously hateful and hurtful. They are not reflective of the colleague and friend that we have known at MSNBC for the past seven years. She has apologized publicly and privately and said she's grown and evolved in the many years since. And we know this to be true. Very supportive still of Joy."

Where was MSNBC the last couple of weeks when this has also been coming out?

STELTER: Like 48 hours ago it was on Buzzfeed. Heard about that 9/11 documentary especially disturbing. It took the network a wild to address this. But they are being supportive. I think it is notable this comes on a week when we are talking various people crossing various lines. Each case is unique, each case is different. But in this case, I think we have to recognize that people do change, they should be given the space to evolve. And that's what she's saying, she's evolved and grown over the years

and MSNBC is supporting her over that. A little different over the Roseanne Barr case, racist posts five years ago, another racist post this week. No indication of change or evolution. To be fair, Joy has said she's changed and evolved her reviews, but it's the credibility issue about claiming you were hacked and maybe not claiming you were hacked and then you had an expert say the FBI is investigating, maybe that's not true. That's really, I think the issue here. It's up to her viewers to decide if she's credible on that or not.

BALDWIN: Jeremy, last question to you, it really does sound like MSNBC is standing by her. Do you think she's safe job-wise?

BARR: I think the network likes her a lot. She's a very important voice for the network. She's popular with viewers. Her MSNBC colleagues when it was OK to do that, came out and supported her. The advertiser boycott effort has been a lot more tepid than against Laura Ingram on Fox News. I think that they think she has a path forward and they hope this statement will put things to rest for now.

STELTER: We're going to hear her critics say this is another double standard. That's been the line of the week. In this case for a liberal star.

BALDWIN: Jeremy Starr, Brian Stelter, thank you. Coming up next, as American starts a trade war with allies, vows of retaliation. That's next.